Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber - Municipal Offices. View directions
Contact: Bev Thomas, Democratic Services Team Leader
Apologies were received from Cllrs. Bassett-Smith, Boyes, Clucas and Hay, while Cllr. Harvey was late.
Declarations of interest
Cllr. Babbage declared an interest in the second motion as a member of the county council’s Pension Committee, and left the Chamber during that item.
Minutes of the meeting held on 20 February 2023
The minutes of the 20th February meeting were approved and signed as a correct record.
Minutes of the last meeting
The Mayor sent condolences to the families of Peter Barlow and Phil Awford, who had both passed away recently. Peter Barlow was a stalwart of Remembrance Day services down the years, the former chairman of the Royal British Legion and a well-known figure in Cheltenham, especially for organising many poppy appeals and parades. Phil Awford, meanwhile, represented the Highnam division on the county council for more than 20 years.
She added that she had been delighted to meet and congratulate four young people aged between 10 and 13, after they had assisted a Springbank youth worker who had been assaulted by a member of the public. It was great to meet these young men, who were a credit to their families.
She also put on record her thanks to those who supported the council during race week, including the Love Our Turf campaign. In particular, she highlighted the efforts of Louis Krog and his brilliant team, as well as licensing officers from Tewkesbury, South Gloucestershire and Wolverhampton, and Avon and Somerset Police’s Taxi Licensing Officer. She also thanked Gloucestershire Constabulary for working with the council’s licensing team to perform stops and vehicle checks on out-of-town private hire vehicles, all of which made a significant positive difference.
Finally, she reminded Members about the quiz night on Friday 31st March.
Communications by the Leader of the Council
In the absence of the Leader of the Council, the Deputy Leader thanked council staff and partners again for the effort, extra hours and dedication that they showed during race week to keep the town looking its best. Before the races, the council worked hard to promote a message of personal responsibility and while it was disappointing to see a small minority ignore this, he thanked the vast majority of attendees who had fun but respected the town during the festival.
Following his update at the last Council meeting, he confirmed that he had written to Cllr. Gravells at the county council regarding the provision of NHS dentistry services, and looked forward to a response.
He added that the council had now received more detailed feedback regarding its Levelling Up bid. The feedback was that while it was a strong bid, they were not shortlisted for funding due to needing to strengthen the impact the funding would have from a cultural perspective, as well as more information on the positive impact on the community. He was confident that the Golden Valley development would do both of these things, and had they had more clarity on the contents of the bid then these were things they could have addressed in the last round. This was part of the challenge of having to face repeated competitions to receive government funding. In his view, funding should be awarded on the strength of need and the strength of the project and not on the strength of the bid alone. Nevertheless, the council would continue to engage with partners and review its position if and when a new funding round was announced.
He was delighted to report that the council had been awarded Bronze at the iESE public sector transformation awards, which celebrated the most innovative practice in transforming public services. CBC’s climate impact assessment tool was one of 30 nominations in the innovation category. It was good to see positive recognition of the hard work undertaken by the climate team.
Finally, he added that CBC had hosted the LG Challenge on the 7th and 8th of March. This was local government’s version of The Apprentice, and they had the pleasure of hosting ten of local government’s best and brightest. The challenge set was for them to look at how they could ensure that the Golden Valley development delivered inclusive growth and opportunity to those communities and families who faced the biggest challenges in our town. The work they completed in less than 24 hours was truly astonishing, and he looked forward to using and developing their ideas as the project progressed.
To receive petitions
There were none.
1. Question from Mike Farmer to Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Councillor Peter Jeffries
Voter ID costs
I note that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has allocated ‘new burdens’ funding to Cheltenham Borough Council for the costs of introducing Voter ID Ref New Burdens Funding Allocations 22/23 and 23/24: voter ID, accessibility, training & contact centre costs (England and Wales) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk),and that these allocations total £7,610 (£4,750 for Financial Year 2022/23 and £2,860 for Financial Year 2023/24).
Could the Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets state:
Response from Cabinet Member
Thank you Mr Farmer for your questions. It is fair to say that under normal conditions, cost recovery for elections are well practiced. Adding the requirement of voter ID gives a variable that all local authorities will be grappling with, the outcome of which, financially, will not be known until after each election.
The New Burdens funding is being provided using a hybrid approach of upfront grant payments, Justification Led Bids and a combination of both. The upfront grants are a proportion of the funding available. The upfront grant for Cheltenham (£4,750 for Financial Year 2022/23 and £2,860 for Financial Year 2023/24) has been calculated based on the fact that we do not have any scheduled elections for May 2023 and we do not have a large number of polling stations. Should the upfront grant funding not be sufficient to cover the councils costs, then the Justification Led Bid process will allow additional funding to be released retrospectively. Funding for the financial year 2024/25 will follow the same pattern, with the first payment awarded via upfront grant in April 2024, followed by the JLB process.
Costs incurred for UK parliamentary elections as a result of the Elections Act will be met by the Consolidated Fund, rather than the New Burdens funding. In the event that an early election is called during the financial year 2023/24, should there be any costs arising, above the grants already awarded, because of voter ID requirements they would be met through this process.
Supplementary question from Mike Farmer
At the end of the first paragraph, it says that the financial outcome will not be known until after the next election. Has the council made any assessment of the cost of introducing voter ID and the adequacy of government funding for it?
Response from Cabinet Member
Making a specific assessment is difficult because the relevant legislation and guidance was not finalised until January, so it is an ongoing process, and the funding mechanisms are complex. The government made an assessment based ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
1. Question from Councillor Tim Harman to Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Culture, Tourism and Wellbeing, Councillor Max Wilkinson
Cheltenham Borough Council’s contribution to tourism is “The Cheltenham Pod” in the High Street, which is a locked up leaflet dispenser and is rarely staffed, together with a modest stand distributing leaflets in the reception of the Municipal Offices. Surely we can do better than this for this great town.
Will he undertake an urgent review of the council’s modest contribution to tourism, including comparing this council’s approach with those of other comparative towns and cities across the country?
Response from Cabinet Member
The Cheltenham Pod was opened thanks to a grant from the government’s Welcome Back Fund. It was never intended to be a 24/7 location for Tourism Information. As Cllr Harman is aware, thanks to the interest in this matter of his colleague Cllr Nelson, the Council hosts Tourism Information in the Municipal Offices reception on weekdays. As he will further be aware, as a result of recent questions, the Council has also been considering for some time how to provide in-person tourism information to visitors on weekends. Cllr Harman will be pleased to hear that a trial scheme is soon to launch. This will involve visitor welcome staff being stationed at the Cheltenham Pod on weekends and Bank Holidays and the job adverts are now live. While market research shows that the vast majority of tourists will access information online in advance of visits, we accept that this will not be the case for everyone – particularly older visitors. Therefore, the new seven-day-a-week provision will help provide cover for those requiring extra help. This authority, via Marketing Cheltenham, is currently working with other local authorities on a review of regional tourism marketing. This is as a result of a request from the government, via Visit England.
Supplementary question from Cllr. Harman
I understand the pod is not staffed full time, but I was surprised to find out that there was nobody there last week during the racing festival. Would the Cabinet Member be happy to bring a report to Overview & Scrutiny in six or nine months’ time on how the strategy is progressing? It is important to keep watching this, and I’m sure we share the ambition of doing more for tourism than we currently are.
Response from Cabinet Member
The short answer is probably yes but I’m willing to expand on it as we go. It is useful for us to discuss and debate this. If we were seeking a route, we probably wouldn’t start from here, with a background of funding cuts in local government and the loss of the existing tourist information repository during the pandemic. The emerging strategy can be positive and innovative, and the old 9-5 approach in the same place was neither financially sustainable nor particularly effective. In line with many other local areas, we are pursuing something slightly different, and if it doesn’t work we will look at alternatives. ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
Report of the Cabinet Member Finance and Assets.
The Cabinet Member Finance and Assets presented the report, recalling the council’s journey in recent years. With a decade of austerity and a commitment to fund discretionary services, this council looked commercialise its operations wherever possible. With the cost of services at £22m and income from local taxation and grants equalling £14m, they had to fill the void of £8m with trading and investment income. How the council used capital and managed investments was more important than ever, in order to ensure it was maximising the returns generated to support the general fund budget.
The documents presented to Council set out how they planned to do this over the next 12 months. These strategies were all mandatory for local authorities and should be reviewed and approved by Council each year. Together with the asset management strategy, they provided the framework for all our capital, asset and investment decisions for the coming year. He also presented for approval the annual Minimum Revenue Provision statement, which explained how the payment of their borrowings had been calculated. There had been no significant changes to their approach for the coming year as they were still waiting for a formal response to the government consultation from 2021, which had still not been published.
The Mayor moved into Member questions:
There being no further questions, the ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency.
The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency presented the report, emphasising that it showed real progress towards the council’s climate goals. Their overall carbon footprint reduction was the key figure, and had been delivered despite many different factors putting pressure on the council. Overall, they had reduced their footprint by even more than would be needed each year to achieve their target of Net Zero by 2030. Cheltenham was leading the way, and they were receiving positive feedback from other councils.
She was also pleased to announce that the council’s bid for funding to deliver a heat pump at Leisure At had been successful, and would help to protect a valuable local resource for residents to enjoy. Alongside their ambitious plans to develop solar, working with CBH to deliver carbon neutral homes and testing the viability of heat networks, they had a real plan to get the town and council to net zero. Finding the right solutions to the climate crisis in the face of a lot of changing technology and high heritage standards was a tough challenge, but they were investing in Cheltenham’s future today. She thanked officers for their dedication in drawing the report together, and commended it to Council.
The Mayor moved into Member questions:
Proposed by Cllr. Wendy Flynn and seconded by Cllr. Tabi Joy.
Cheltenham Youth Council
This Council resolves:
To establish a Cheltenham Youth Council.
In proposing the motion, Cllr. Flynn reminded Members that in 1997, CBC had initiated a programme of work called ‘Investment in young people – a strategic framework’. This recommended the creation of a Youth Affairs post to deliver actions outlined in the strategy, including the formation of a youth council.
‘Right here, right now – a strategy for young people’, approved in 2001, further developed the arguments for creating opportunities for young people to engage with the council. It stressed the importance of working with partners to help young people develop the skills needed to ensure they had influence, and looked to ensure young people could become active citizens, in their communities and through the ballot box. The latter strategy noted that all young people suffered a disadvantage through a lack of influence in decision-making. It focused on 10-19 year olds but involved some work with young people outside of that age range, and demonstrated a commitment to Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In February 2003, a report went to the council’s Social & Community O&S Committee, highlighting the work of the youth council and including wide-ranging consultation with other young people. The paper stated that CBC was addressing this democratic deficit in a number of ways, including by having a strategy for young people, a youth council representative on O&S and youth spokespersons for each party who worked and met with the Young People’s Council on a regular basis. Cabinet decided in 2011 to cease funding for the youth council denying young people a vehicle for meaningful engagement with the council since.
She was pleased that there was a focus on the views of young people in the draft Culture Strategy, to the extent that there was a recommendation to have a young person sit on the board. This stance on including young people was one the council should follow. She noted that the new Corporate Plan made no commitment to actively involve young people in the making of decisions or policy. There was little mention of children and young people’s democratic participation in any of the council’s policies since 2011, suggesting that giving young people a democratic voice had been relegated to the back of their mind.
Last month, six councillors heard from the Youth Climate Group that young people did not feel represented in power-holding structures, that there should be an integration of youth voices into the decision-making process and that there should be a structure for long-term participation for young people. When O&S reported back to Council after looking at UNICEF child-friendly city status, it was clear that there was not currently a mechanism for young people to influence what the council did.
She added that Stroud’s District Youth Council had been founded in 2000. District Youth Councillors acted as representatives of ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
Any other item the Mayor determines as urgent and which requires a decision
There were none.